Before I start talking about striving, I wanted to make a couple things clear for you. I’m a second year here at UT. By no means will I claim that I know everything nor am I an expert at any of this. Heck, sometimes I still feel like a freshman here. I don’t think I can tell you exactly how to strive, but I’ll share my personal thoughts and experience with you.
Coming into college, everyone has some sort of expectation to meet some goal: it could be to finally hit the gym, to make new friends, to get the 4.0 and a secure job or into med school, and the list goes on. One thing that I learned my freshman year about striving is that your first year reveals what you’re striving for. Your parents aren’t here anymore to tell you what to do or make sure you finish your homework or even eat three meals a day. This lack of external direction means that in college, you become responsible for everything you do. There is some sort of purpose that you do each and everything you do. The way you spend your time, money and efforts reveals where your heart is (Matthew 6:21).
Generally speaking, many of those things we strive for as humans have tangible results: a better looking body, more friends, or a 4.0. If you desire a better looking body, you will spend your time at the gym, sometimes at the expense of studying. If you desire more friends, you will spend your time with people, getting to know them and sharing memories. If your desire is the 4.0, you will spend a lot of time studying, sacrificing sleep and other events. I’m not deeming any of these desires as wrong, nor am I saying these are all encompassing of all things first year college students deal with, but these are just some of the realities of college life.
As I said before, these desires are for something better. These desires aren’t bad things. These desires are fueled by a void. In each and every one of our hearts, we desire something perfect that nothing on this earth can fulfill. The truth is our hearts desire a perfect relationship with our Creator. This once perfect relationship, when everything was “good” (Genesis 1), was torn when man sinned and turned away from God (Genesis 3). After this moment, man has been in a perpetual state of striving for some of the goals discussed above that don’t actually satisfy. That’s why you, when at the gym, are never satisfied with the way you look. There’s always a higher threshold to attain or a look to put on. That’s why you, when you have a bunch of friends, always want more or the approval of more friends. That’s why you, in school, even at the point of having a 4.0 feel that something is lacking.
Thankfully, we have do have something better to strive towards that can fulfill our void. This something is Jesus. He gives us the worth that we desire in our image, in our relationships, in our desires for approval, in our academic endeavors, and much, much more. This is the greatest news (i.e. the Gospel) that anyone can hear, and thankfully, it’s offered for free to you and to me (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-10)! This is a relationship worth striving for and investing your time in! There are many different ways that you can strive for this relationship, specifically in AACM. So invest your time with your small group, learn and enjoy large group, ask someone who has done more life to mentor you, be trained as that you can teach others, and invest in a church.
Personally, I came into college expecting it to be a huge time of personal growth and a time for me to make lasting friendships with people at school since after all, we all practically live together. My heart desired friendships and relationships. This feeling may have also been fueled because I came into college with very few friends in my grade. Many of my closer friends were younger than me, and so they didn’t come to college when I did. For me, I tried my best to build these friendships through joining a small group in AACM. I personally spent a lot of time with my small group guys: I studied with them, ate with them, prayed with them; basically, I lived life with them. At the end of the year, I got close to each and every one of them, through gospel centered community. This gospel centered community means that each of these relationships was built upon the purpose of growing as family in Christ. Thus I was further satisfied by my experience because we mutually sought after a relationship with God through small group.
Like striving for any other goal, striving for this goal of Christ-centered relationships was not easy, nor will it ever be. The first couple weeks of trying to meet up with guys and start to get to know them on a deeper level was difficult. At the end of the day, however, I believe it was more than worth it. Striving for this relationship through small group has definitely grown my personal relationship with God, not just my friendships with my small group guys. This fulfillment may not have quantifiable results by means of numbers, but I know that each and every one of the guys from my small group cares about all the others because of the love that Jesus has for each of us. This love means that we struggle together when things aren’t going our way, like when school discourages us or when relationships get hard. This love means we celebrate the joys and blessings of life together, like when we accomplish goals or hear good news. This love means we work and strive toward the common goal of growth in our relationship with Christ together. For me, this has been one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever encountered. However, it is even more important that you put your own time and efforts into developing this relationship by reading the Bible, praying, and spending time with God on your own.
This experience is what striving my first year in college looked like. I do want to encourage you to partake in this relationship. Don’t take my word for it, but take Jesus’, “I came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) and the Lord’s truth in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of the heart.” This road is hard, but Jesus is worth it.